Rahman is bigger

better is question

At nearly 260, ex-titlist tries again against Tua

Boxing

March 29, 2003|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -Samoan heavyweight David Tua skipped an opportunity yesterday to run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art alongside hometown hero Bernard Hopkins, who duplicated the scene that immortalized a pug named Rocky in the 1976 movie classic starring Sylvester Stallone.

Tua, instead, was driven to the top of the stairs. Perhaps he figured he didn't need the exercise.

Yesterday, Tua weighed in at 245 pounds for his bout tonight with Baltimore's Hasim Rahman at the First Union Spectrum. Rahman weighed in at 259 1/2 pounds, the heaviest of his career.

The scheduled 12-round International Boxing Federation eliminator will be televised on HBO. It will take place on the undercard of undisputed middleweight champ Hopkins' title defense - against Mourade Hakkar of France.

"It's where I am," Rahman said of his weight, nearly 15 pounds more than his previous high fighting weight of 245 in 2000, when he knocked out Corrie Sanders. Reportedly, he began camp six weeks ago at 280.

Rahman weighed only 224 for his losing fight against Evander Holyfield last June.

"I feel good. I know my body fat's not high," he said. "I feel strong. I'm ready to go 12 hard rounds."

The clash is a rematch of a controversial, 10th-round stoppage of Rahman (35-4, 29 knockouts) by Tua (42-3, 37 KOs) in Miami in 1998. The winner will become the mandatory challenger to IBF champ Chris Byrd, who has beaten Tua.

Rahman gained the IBF and World Boxing Council belts with a fifth-round knockout of Lennox Lewis in South Africa in April 2001, only to lose them in a rematch with Lewis seven months later by fourth-round KO in Las Vegas.

"I know what it takes to get to the title and I feel like I can get there again,"` said Rahman. "I think it's a winnable fight for me. If I win this fight, I can go on to bigger and better things.

"I'm going to mix it up a little bit. I didn't come here to run around and stay away from him. He's going to hit me. I'm going to stand up to his punches and hit him back."

Rahman will wear Reyes gloves, considered apt for knockouts. Tua will wear Everlast gloves.

Rahman will take instructions not from his trainer, but from his cutman, Miguel Diaz. The fighter brought on a new trainer just 21 days ago, but Buddy McGirt is contracted to Main Events, which won't let him work the corner of a fighter promoted by Don King.

"This is the first time I'm going to be his chief second, but I've had some influence in his fights," said Diaz, who has trained 11 world champions. "I understand his boxing very well. It won't be a problem telling him what to do."

Tua's manager-trainer, Kevin Barry, doubts Rahman can stand up against his fighter. On Thursday, he arranged for e-mail invitations to a surprise retirement party for Rahman.

"Don't be late," said Barry, referring to the bout's scheduled 10 p.m. start. "It could be over by 10:05 p.m.

"Rahman has no confidence. He has no chin," said Barry, whose fighter twice broke two-inch, fiberglass body protectors worn by Barry during training.

Having never been knocked down or out, Tua was favored by 40 of 42 boxing experts polled. To bring him down, Rahman said, he plans to do what none of Tua's other opponents have been able to do.

"I definitely think it's going to be a knockout," Rahman said. "By the way he fights, he's going to provide the opportunity. I've just got to stand in there and take advantage of it.

"The man has powerful legs. He can take it pretty well. He recovers quickly, but I don't see where he's never been hurt.

"I hurt him in our first fight. I hit him with a clean right hand off the ropes that hurt him."

Tua's prior win over Rahman earned him a bout with Lewis, which Tua lost.

So each of the 30-year-old heavyweights is in search of his third title shot, and each has said he would consider walking away should he lose tonight.

Rahman lost his last bout in June by eighth-round technical decision to Holyfield, 40, when their bumping heads raised a baseball-sized hematoma on Rahman's forehead .

"I don't want to be an opponent for this person or that person," said Rahman, who is 6-4 in his past 10 fights. He said a loss tonight would make him think fighting "is something I wouldn't be interested in doing."

Tua has flattened his past three opponents with his powerful left hook. He finished Fres Oquendo in the eighth round, former champ Michael Moorer in 30 seconds, and, in November, scored a first-rounder over Russell Chasteen.

But Tua is 0-2 in world title shots. And he struggles against boxers (as opposed to sluggers) as evidenced by Rahman's huge lead - by a combined 19 points on the three judges' cards - in the first nine rounds of their previous bout.

"Rahman's game plan was working," said Tua, who earned an Olympic bronze medal for New Zealand in 1992. He called tonight's fight "a time test to see if this [boxing] is what I want to do. To see if this is what I want to be involved with.

"Certainly, what we want to do is fight for the world title one more time," he said.

Fight facts

Who: Hasim Rahman (35-4, 29 KOs) vs. David Tua (42-3, 37 KOs) in a 12-round International Boxing Federation heavyweight eliminator bout

Where: First Union Spectrum, Philadelphia

When: Today, 10 p.m.

TV: HBO

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